The success of Android as an open platform in the past couple of years is made evident by the huge volume and diversity of devices offered by manufacturers. In this highly competitive market, device manufacturers strive to differentiate themselves via innovation over the existing platform.
HTC Sense is a customized UI framework that enhances the stock Android by centering its design around people and their social networks. One of its design goals is to provide a seamless social experience across applications and widgets in different contexts, while conserving battery life and maintaining performance. In this session we will share some of the technical challenges in designing HTC Sense and our experiences to overcome those challenges.
The session will begin with a brief overview of unique features in HTC Sense. We will demonstrate that HTC Sense is not just an additional collection of applications and widgets, but an experience around the user and his/her social networks.
We will then go over four technical challenges in designing HTC Sense to provide such a social experience. We hope to share some of our experiences in overcoming those challenges.
Challenge 1 – Seamlessness
Although the user’s social networks can be accessed via ContentProviders as data sources, it is fairly inconvenient for application developers to deal with unparsed data returned in the form of Cursors. In addition, social network data in practice are often required to be stored in separate application packages, each having a different set of APIs and data representations. This makes the remote procedure call to social network services a complex task for application developers. We will share the architecture of our design which handles all of the challenges aforementioned.
Challenge 2 – Sync with better battery life
Social data typically is synchronized in the background using the Android Sync framework. Each sync inevitably uses CPU cycles and consumes battery. We will share some of our strategies in background sync to conserve battery.
Challenge 3 – Data aggregation with efficiency
The volume of social data aggregated from multiple sources can become so enormous that it hinders the UI performance and causes ANRs. We will share with the audience some of our strategies in improving the performance when dealing with aggregated content.
Challenge 4 – Extensibility
We will introduce how our partners can use the OpenSense SDK to add data as well as UI components to the Sense UI in the form of plugins.
David Wu is a senior engineer at HTC. He works on the social network team for HTC Sense, responsible for adding “social touches” to the overall user experience. He is one of the core developers behind HTC Friend Stream.
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